I’m not exactly the best person to be around when I’m sleep-deprived. Let’s just get that out there right now. I become bitter, cranky, shaky–and that’s after I’ve replaced all forms of hydration with black coffee (I realize that it may also be because of all the coffee I act like a kid who just got his hand slammed in a door–lots of shaking, horrified expressions, fear of loud noises–but it beats falling asleep on my feet while I’m scrambling eggs in the morning…).
David knows to steer clear of me on these days. It’s a survival mechanism he’s honed over the last eight years of marriage. He brews an extra-big pot of coffee, clears out early, and doesn’t call until close to dinnertime, usually to gauge whether or not he’s picking up take-out on the way home. Those dear daughters of ours, though? Well, they’re stuck with me. All day. I feel bad for the kids.
A couple of days ago, SK was acting up–stealing toys from her sister, hollering “Nooooo!” when I’d correct her: basic 3-year-old shenanigans. I was a little bitier than usual with my discipline–voice raised a little too loudly, possibly tearing out of my own hair with complete soap opera-worthy dramatics. After the little “make-up” session was over (that’s what I call the period where SK’s calms down, realizes she messed up, apologizes–“Sorry, Mom, for misbehaving. I won’t yell again. It’s hard to behave all the time”–and goes back to wrestling with her sis for the toys), I apologized to her for being a little snippier than usual.
“Saoirse, I’m sorry I raised my voice earlier,” I said, feeling like a ninny for apologizing to my child. I wonder what the parenting experts would say about that. “Mom hasn’t been getting enough sleep, and being tired makes me a little cranky.”
“Why don’t you get enough sleep?” she asked.
“I don’t know, kid. I think children are smarter than grown-ups that way.”
“Well, children go to bed when they’re tired. When you and Quinn get sleepy, you rub your eyes and say you want to sleep. Grown-ups often stay up late, even when they’re sleepy.”
“I don’t know, really.”
“That’s silly. You should go to sleep!”
We carried on about our day, through lunch and the girls’ naps. I was feeling better, having chugged a small pot of Starbucks and worked my way through half a container of candy corn (not exaggerating, really. I didn’t say I was proud). After the girls woke up, they were playing while I did some sort of house-y chores (I don’t know what, exactly: dishes? Changing the sheets on the bed? Picking up the pile of books Quinn decided to remove from our bookshelves because she had a sudden hankering for Shakespeare and Adrienne Rich?).
Then Saoirse went into 3-year-old mode, complete with throwing a toy across the room, yelling at her sister, hollering at me, in one big, it-all-happens-in-one-second outburst. I reprimanded her, took a toy away from her, removed her from the room.
She cried. Tears were spilling down her cheeks. I could see in her face that she’d realized that she’d gone overboard, and was now faced with an interminable half hour without her favorite toy.
She stood there, hunched over, fists at her side, doing that awful staggered-breath thing kids do when they start to calm down from a hard crying session. She looked up at me, nose pink, face wet with tears.
“Mom?” she said. “Can you please get some more sleep tonight?”